A boy, a nameless boy, lives in a large and rambling old house in rural England. His father’s business is failing and, to keep money coming in, the family begins letting out rooms. One of these lodgers is an aggressive opal miner from South Africa, who runs over the boy’s cat on his way to the house. The next night, he steals the family’s car and drives it to the end of the road and kills himself. When the car is discovered, with the body in it, the boy is sent to the neighboring Hempstock farmhouse while his father calls the police.